I recently read an article from The Atlantic, published a few years ago, about productivity and the secret to being more productive. If you’re like me, you consume as many “productivity hacks” articles and books as possible – which is ironic because I probably could’ve just done the task I needed to do during the time it took me to read the article.
Many of these articles start with the idea of waking up at 4:30 AM and knocking out all of your hardest tasks first, which let’s be honest for a parent of 2 kids under 5 years old is just not happening. But jokes aside, many “productivity hacks” that I’ve come across really center around doing more work, in the same amount of time, organized differently or more efficiently.
This article however, was different, in that it emphasized doing less work.
Unlimited Work; Limited Time
What a crazy idea – be more productive by doing less work. Sounds like something from the TV show “Seinfeld.” But the reason why it might just work for us is that unfortunately we oftentimes confuse our work with our job.
For many of us, we have multiple jobs including but not limited to:
- paid jobs within a business or organization
- unpaid jobs, like caregiving or taking care of parents and children
- taking care of tasks around the house
- being your family’s chef, dietitian, and kitchen staff
Our work is the many “inputs” associated with achieving the “outputs” of our jobs – whether it be treating a patient, teaching a lesson plan, feeding our family, or raising a child.
The challenge for today is that we effectively have unlimited “inputs” asking for our time (emails, meetings, drama, social media, entertainment, etc.) to where we never actually reach the end and move on. One reason we feel so busy is that there’s always something else we can be doing. But you can’t feed your family if you are only focused on washing dishes, and you likely can’t do your job if you are only focused on replying to emails.
While prioritizing tasks between urgent and important is not new (there’s actually a lesson in Joyages about the “Eisenhower Matrix” made popular by Stephen Covey), the idea of eliminating inputs could be a great tool for you as you move forward into 2023.
Here are three recommendations on how to eliminate the never-ending input cycle:
- Set a time limit on how long you will allocate to a specific task. Instead of writing “clean the kitchen” on your To-Do list, write “20 minutes of cleaning the kitchen”, so you know that after those 20 minutes you are moving on to something else.
- Only keep a list of 5-6 things on your to-do list with a rule that you can’t add new items unless you replace it with an existing item. Productivity is really about trade-offs, and once we start to think about it in terms of “if I do this, I can’t do this”, we can start to prioritize the inputs that actually matter.
- Ignore the myth of “grand gestures”. That’s the idea that we need a large block of uninterrupted time to accomplish our big goals. What usually happens is we have chunks of 10-to-20-minute increments which we fill with lower priority items, because we feel like we can’t give our high priority item the time it needs. If we follow this myth, we never make progress.
With this new mindset you’ll be able to reframe your time. Want to learn more useful tools or share them to your employees? We are happy to share our tools with you. Let’s get started!